Thursday, June 09, 2005

Copyrighting Race & Gender

Copyfight refers to a post by Professor Michael Madison on a "case in which a stage production of Grease was halted by the rights organization because the female cast was going to play female students in an all-girls school putting on a performance of Grease." The stage production reacted with Grease and Desist, a musical answer to the legal threat. It reminded me if a snip in an article on cross-casting that had a less amusing outcome:
Cross-casting along gender and racial lines has been used in the theater for years, starting with productions of Shakespeare. On Broadway now, Denzel Washington is playing Brutus in "Julius Caesar" and James Earl Jones and Leslie Uggams headline "On Golden Pond." In 2001, a film version of "Hamlet" set in the post-Civil War South included a black Polonius played by Roscoe Lee Browne.

Such casting does not always go smoothly. In Glenelg, Md., last month, a high school production of "Huckleberry Finn" had a black Huck Finn and a white Jim, but the copyright holder objected to the cross-casting and the performances were edited out of a C-SPAN talent show.


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